PARIS (Reuters) - France coach Fabien Galthie believes his team’s solidarity and self-belief helped them hold off England’s fightback in a convincing 24-17 victory in their Six Nations opener on Sunday.
Les Bleus led 24-0 before the visitors rallied and narrowed the gap with two Jonny May tries converted by Owen Farrell, who was left to salvage a bonus point with a stoppage-time penalty.
“The players won the game, their solidarity won the game,” Galthie said after his first match as national team coach.
“When England started to come back on the scoreboard, there was an arm-wrestling contest and we won it, our defence won it.
“But we also scored three tries, which is no small feat against a team like England in these (raining) weather conditions.”
France started the Six Nations with a squad featuring only one player over 30 and an average of 15 caps per player, but it did not show at the Stade de France.
Galthie said all the detailed work by staff and players paid off, a year after France, under coach Jacques Brunel, blew a 16-0 halftime lead in a 24-19 home loss to Wales.
“We’re in a very positive state,” said Galthie after France underlined their credentials in a Six Nations tournament they have not won since 2010.
“It’s a victory for all the little details put in place and worked on by the coaching staff over the last couple of months.”
He explained that the team’s boldness, personified by risk-taking scrumhalf Antoine Dupoint, was also rewarded.
“Our team is very young, in terms of age and in terms of experience, but we were not scared of making mistakes, we did not think we could be wrong,” Galthie said.
France next face Italy at the Stade de France.
“Who do France play next? Italy? Good luck (to them),” England coach Eddie Jones said with a grin.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond